The rebuilding of the Texas Rangers is about to begin. How much rebuilding will happen is anyone’s guess at this point.
The first salvo occurred Tuesday, when the Rangers decided not to pick up the options of Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama. Really no big surprises there. Tateyama, who pitched pretty effectively for Texas in 2011 (2-0, 4.50 ERA in 39 games) was a disaster in 2012 (1-0, 9.00 ERA in 14 games). Feldman, expected to fill the long relief/spot starter role, became a fulltime starting service after Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz were lost for the year with injuries and Roy Oswalt failed to do well as a starter. The biggest surprise of Feldman’s season is that his 6-11 record and 5.09 ERA was good enough to earn a 0.0 WAR. In other words, 6-11, 5.09 must be considered a replacement level starter. Wow.
The only potential minus here is if Feldman just needed longer to get over microfracture knee surgery in 2011 and posts a great 2013 for someone else. For all the good Jon Daniels has done as GM, this past season saw at least five Rangers cast-offs who performed credible jobs for their new teams: Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day for Baltimore, Cody Eppely and Clay Rapada for the Yankees. Constructing a pitching staff is so often a crap shoot, with many relievers having an awesome year, following up with two terrible seasons, then suddenly finding lightning again. Many teams’ fortunes rise and fall on these variables. If those castaways had been able to put together those seasons for the Rangers, it might have been a post-season difference maker.
So we know Feldman and Tateyama won’t return, unless they re-up with Texas at a major discount. The next step is the free agent process.
Josh Hamilton will get the league standard $13.3 million dollar offer to stay in Texas for another year. He will turn it down and if he signs elsewhere, Texas gets a supplemental draft pick. More unknown is whether the Rangers will make the same offer to catcher Mike Napoli. Because he had a down year, Naps could accept a $13.3 million offer for another year, hoping to turn it around in 2013 and get even bigger bucks and a multi-year deal a year from now. If no offer is received, then we’ll know Texas has committed to totally overhauling the catching.
The Blue Jays are stockpiling catchers, having picked up Yorvit Torrealba after Texas let him go and, just last week, inking Bobby Wilson after his release by the Angels. Since they already had two well-regarded home-grown catchers, it’s a good bet the Blue Jays will deal some of their catching in the off-season. The Rangers have expressed interest in both J.P. Arencibia and Travis D’Arnaud.
Other Rangers getting ready to test the free agent waters include Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster. Of that group, Oswalt is most certainly gone. Since Adams’ year ended prematurely to injury, the hope is he’ll be willing to sign again with Texas, as he might not now command the dollars he could have. I’d love to see them resign Uehara as well. Down the stretch, he was one of Texas’ most effective pitchers. Texas will allow Lowe to leave and I doubt there’s much interest in getting Dempster to come back, though that could depend on other factors.
If Texas lets both Hamilton and Napoli walk, we could be seeing a pretty big revamping of the offense. There’s a lot of power that would need replacing. That’s why, with Hamilton likely to go elsewhere, I think Texas will do what they can to at least keep Napoli.
I expect Texas to go hard after Zack Greinke in the free agent market, while the Angels will go all out to try to keep his services. If Greinke doesn’t materialize, Texas could pursue a trade with Tampa Bay for David Price.
Another reason to re-sign Napoli: to keep him for a first base platoon with Mitch Moreland. Moreland can hit the ball a long way and is an adequate defender, but at best is a streaky hitter with hot spells that don’t last long enough to off-set the cold snaps. And that’s just against right handed pitchers. Against lefties, Moreland is cold and colder.
There are several directions the Rangers could go this off-season. What’s definite is they’ll make more moves between now and Spring Training than they did the past two years combined. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
GOLD GLOVE AWARDS: For the second straight year, Adrian Beltre nabbed the AL Gold Glove Award for his defensive play at third base. The other two Rangers up for Gold Gloves, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus, didn’t receive the honor. Beltre was an easy choice. That’s easy to say, but judging by the actual award winners, it’s hard to back up. On the one hand, sometimes they give the award to people just because they committed so few errors, despite not having the range of other players at the position. Case in point: JJ Hardy of the Orioles. While I love Elvis, the winner probably should have been Brendan Ryan of the Mariners, who had range and only nine errors. On the other hand, some players win because of past reputation alone. Case in point: Adam Jones of the Orioles, who’s won the award before but had six errors in the field this year, a high number for an outfielder. In other words, there’s no set criteria for winning Gold Gloves. That’s why I’m happy Beltre won. With no set criteria, there was no guarantee he would.
The Rangers had it so good in 2011. Not one starting pitcher missed substantial time due to injury. The only spot starts made were to address minor problems like blisters or to give a couple of pitchers who had gone a lot of innings a start or two rest before the stretch run.
What the Rangers are experiencing in 2012 is a totally different story. Going into the season the starting five were considered to be better than most, but not on a par with the Rays and the Angels starting five. The bullpen, however, was already being touted as baseball’s best.
What a difference just a couple of weeks can make. The Rangers pitching staff is at least temporarily a shell of what it was at season’s start. First Neftali Feliz was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder stiffness. Then it was Derek Holland, who hit the DL after losing close to 15 pounds due to a stomach virus. Holland’s rotation replacement, Alexi Ogando, strained his groin after pitching just three innings in his first spot start and has now joined the walking wounded. Topping things off, Scott Feldman, who replaced Feliz in the rotation, has been almost totally ineffective and is now 0-6 after last night’s 11-3 pasting by the Diamondbacks.
Roy Oswalt was signed to fill the gap, but he still isn’t ready to go, needing at least one and possibly two more minor league starts before he can help the big club. In the meantime, Texas is bringing up Justin Grimm from AA Frisco to make a spot start Saturday night against the Astros. Grimm has pitched well in AA, allowing just 14 walks in 13 starts, going 8-3 with a 1.87 ERA. Still, Arlington is a big step up from Frisco and Texas has to be ready to use the bullpen if Grimm struggles. To make room, Texas if placing Koji Uehara on the DL. To make room on the 40-man roster, Feliz is being moved to the 60-Day DL.
The vaunted bullpen has been tarnished by the injuries to the starting staff. While set-up man Mike Adams and closer Joe Nathan are still in place, the Rangers have had to swap out Ogando, Feliz and Holland for Yoshinori Tateyama (11.88 ERA), Tanner Scheppers (9.82 ERA in 3 appearances) and Michael Kirkman (1 scoreless inning but a 5.25 ERA at AAA Round Rock).
Holland will probably come off the DL on the first day possible, about a week from now. That could be about the time Oswalt arrives as well. In the meantime, the makeshift staff needs to suck it up and the offense needs to start producing to make up for what’s missing.
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 2-4
Overall:30-18 (1st Place AL West) (+4.5)
Mike Napoli .353/.522/.588, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 Walks
Ian Kinsler .200/.276/.360
Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Joe Nathan 0.00 ERA, 1 Save, 3 K’s in 3 IP, 0.67 WHIP
Raspa Cold (Pitching): Derek Holland 0-1, 8 ER in 1.2 IP
Yoshinori Tateyama 8 Runs, 6 ER in .2 IP
Mike Adams 6 Runs, 4 ER in 1.2 IP over 3 Games
The perfect storm had finally arrived. There were no new shows on network TV to watch. The Spurs had played the night before. Nothing to keep me from watching my beloved Rangers. Just 45 minutes before game time, the phone rings. It’s the wife.
“Honey, I think I’m going to stay at the office for a little while and get a few things done.”
“What’s on TV tonight?” She meant among the shows we watch together.
“Nothing,” I respond.
The voice on the other end of the phone brightened. “Then maybe you can bring me some dinner and keep me company while I get my work done!”
And just like that, a night of watching Texas Rangers baseball went down the tubes. Little did I know the misery that phone call saved me. It was bad enough to monitor my cell phone, listening to the audio feed, and hear the beat down the Mariners put on Derek Holland in the second inning. It was with beyond disgust that I finally disregarded said cell phone while the M’s were in the midst of their second consecutive 8-run inning. In the end, I couldn’t help but wonder what the outcome for me would have been had I stayed at home and watched the game on the TV.
My wife could have come home to find her husband dead on the sofa, two Boston Terriers licking his lifeless carcass, having suffered a heart attack over what he had just witnessed. Or even worse, a 50 inch TV with a broken screen.
So I thank you, my dear. You saved my life by getting some work done at the office.
There’s nothing one can take out of a beat down like that. The only thing I know for sure is there is an excellent likelihood Yoshinori Tateyama has thrown his last pitch in a Texas Rangers uniform. You can’t even qualify for the position of long relief when you only can last 2/3 of an inning in that role while giving up eight runs.
A game like last night puts the Roy Oswalt signing in a new perspective. Oswalt is slated to replace Neftali Feliz’ place in the rotation, currently being occupied by Scott Feldman, who I’m sure has now silidified his chance of returning to the long relief role when Oswalt arrives. But what do the Rangers do if Holland continues to regress from his breakout 2011? Dutch’s ERA went up a full run after last night’s 1.2 inning, 8-run performance. He’s gotten ripped in at least three of his starts thus far in 2012 and looked visibly shaken by the time he was removed from the game (or so it was described in the audio feed). In that context, the addition of Oswalt becomes more critical for this team.
I’m not here to make jokes about how this is what happens when Dutch shaves his infamous ‘stache, as he did yesterday morning. I’m not even going to compare the final score to a Cowboys-Seahawks game. I’m just going to move on, thank the Yankees for finally beating the Angels last night, enjoy the day off before Friday’s series opener in LA, and thank my wife again for saving my life last night. Or at least the TV’s life.
You’d think this was more than just the third sweep of the season, but it was. In fact, Sunday’s 12-6 win over the Jays was the Rangers first sweep since taking both games of a two-game set at Boston all the way back on April 18th. And that followed the only other sweep of the season at Minnesota. So this was the first home sweep of the season and it comes at an apropos time, as the Angels are looking at this writing like they’re about to run their own winning streak to six games.
Much as the sweep was sweet, it was the slumpbreakers who made it particularly sweet. A couple of names that haven’t been heard of a lot lately made their presence felt on Sunday. Mike Napoli in particular had been in a horrible slump. He’s been in my “Raspa Cold” column the past two weeks and was well on his way to a third consecutive showing in the weekly Hall of Shame until he finally came through today. Naps had been oh for his last ten with seven strikeouts when he finagled a walk off of Kyle Drabek his first time up. In the third, he finally broke the hitless streak with a single off Drabek. And Naps’ homerless streak, over a month in length, ended in the 8th when he connected off Jesse Chavez.
Also making a power appearance after a long absence was Ian Kinsler. Kins had a longer homerless streak than Napoli, going back 28 games to April 24th. That ended with a third inning blast off Drabek that made it a 9-1 Rangers lead.
Michael Young and Elvis Andrus both appear to be coming out of slumps as well. Andrus had two hits and two RBI Sunday , while Young went three for four and made a nifty inning ending double play at second base, where he filled in today while Kinsler served as DH.
What started as a crappy week, going 1-2 against the Mariners in Seattle, has ended up a pretty decent week, with the R’s going 4-2 and gaining ground on everyone in the West except the Angels.
The result? The Rangers hammered the Jays on a day where Josh Hamilton went 0-4. As much as Hamilton is one of the main cogs that make this team run, when the other parts are doing what they’re capable of, Josh doesn’t have to feel he needs to win every game by himself.
Not that there aren’t concerns. Yu Darvish had his second consecutive mediocre outing. So far, watching Darvish is an exercise in wanting lofty expectations to be reality immediately. If you haven’t seen Darvish pitch yet, here’s what you’ll find: Pitches with so much movement, you wonder how anyone can hit him. You’ll also see command issues that seem to come and go from start to start. And you’ll see a pitcher who takes his time on the mound. Don’t expect a short game when Darvish is on the mound. He’s hitting a rough patch right now, but again, just watching him game to game, you can tell he has the potential to be scary good, but he’s not there yet, even though he now sports a 7-2 record.
The bullpen also has been less than stellar lately. Alexi Ogando in particular has hit a little bit of a rough patch and Yoshi Tateyama, called up to replace Neftali Feliz when Feliz went on the DL last week, has not given much reason to stay in the Rangers plans long-term.
Still, a sweep is a sweep and all is happy in this little corner of Rangers World. For now. But I reserve the right to get irritated with my boys at a moment’s notice.
It took almost two months of the season, but the Rangers finally had to make a roster move yesterday, placing Neftali Feliz on the 15-day DL with elbow discomfort.
Although it’s just the 15-day DL, Feliz is expected to be out until the All-Star break in July. He won’t even be allowed to throw for about six weeks, followed by the usual rehab assignment, so we won’t be seeing the former Rangers closer for a while.
Funny how things change so quickly in two days time. Just a couple of days ago, Ranger fandom scoffed when it was learned the front office brass had observed a Roy Oswalt workout session. Now the possibility of an Oswalt signing becomes something much more in the forefront.
In the near term, Scott Feldman will take Feliz’ spot in the rotation. If Feldman has success, the odds go down of an Oswalt signing. Just three years ago, Feldman was a 17-game winner for Texas and was the Opening Day starter in Texas’ first World Series run in 2010. It isn’t a stretch to say Feldman could be a solid solution to the Rangers #5 starter situation. In the meantime, Robbie Ross and recently recalled Yoshinori Tateyama will probably fill the middle relief role vacated by Feldman.
Now the problem becomes what happens if another starting pitcher goes down. Alexi Ogando, who was used as a starter last season, would be an option, but I think Texas prefers him in his 7th inning role right now. As for the farm, there really aren’t any options there. The top prospects, Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez, have not pitched well. Michael Kirkman, who has seen action with the Rangers on and off the past two seasons, also has not pitched well and is being treated for skin cancer as well.
All of a sudden Roy Oswalt is looking more attractive as an option.
Spring Training Tidbits:
1) Looks like Koji Uehara will remain a Ranger. GM Jon Daniels says talks have stalled on a Uehara trade package.
2) The Rangers acquired lefthander Kelvin De La Cruz from the Cleveland Indians and he became the 40th member of the Rangers’ 40-man roster. De La Cruz hasn’t pitched above AA, but held lefthanded hitters there to a .143 average in 2011. That makes him a candidate to be the Rangers’ LOOGY in 2012.
3) Some unknown guy by the name of Darvish made his first appearance in Surprise, Arizona, tossing a bullpen session and joining fellow Japanese Mafia members Koji Uehara and Yoshinori Tateyama for a clubhouse picture. Reports are this Darvish fellow could make the big league roster out of Spring Training.
4) I’ve decided Jim Memelo on MLB Radio is a Rangers hater. Over the past two weeks, Memelo has called the Yu Darvish signing one of his “Most Questionable Moves” of the off-season. This morning, he ripped into Derek Holland for saying in an interview he didn’t think the Rangers were getting enough respect. Memelo said the Rangers didn’t do anything to make themselves better while other teams in the AL did. Well Jim, if you meant they didn’t plop down $200 million plus on Prince Fielder to replace Mitch Moreland at first, you’re certainly right there. Beyond that, it seems to me when you have a starting rotation listed by many publications as one of the top five in baseball, a bullpen expected to be one of the top three and an offense that’s the consensus number 1 in the game, you’re already sitting in a pretty good position.
5) For the first time, I purchased the Baseball Prospectus Pre-Season Guide with their PECOTA rankings of expected performance. Interesting read, but I was a bit puzzled. They stated at the outset they weren’t posting a ranking on Yu Darvish because, as of press time, the Rangers hadn’t signed him yet. I get that. But then, in their PECOTA ratings, they rank Neftali Feliz strictly as a reliever. This despite the fact the Rangers stated shortly after the World Series and long before going to print he was going to become a starting pitcher and there’d be no going back. Hard to believe that little nugget slipped by the bright minds at BP.